Define Your Goals Cleverly, Use the SMART Method

Published 5. 11. 2019

The abbreviation SMART is a mnemonic tool summarizing the basic principles suitable for setting goals in project management, company operation or personal development.

The first to use this term was the former head of the development of a Washington hydroelectric plant George T. Doran, who did so in Management Review in November 1981. He named his article a promising "There are clever (S. M. A. R. T) methods for determining corporate goals and plans" and devoted it to the key role of tasks and difficulties in setting them up.


Just say when, what and how…

Ideally, he believes that it should be the task for each company, division or department:

  • Specific – to focus on improving the specific area;
  • Measurable – to define or at least recommend parameters for measuring the progress achieved;
  • Adequate – to specifically appoint responsible staff;
  • Real – to require fulfilling of achievable targets with regard to available resources;
  • Term – to identify the time period until which it will be finished.


The basic advantage should be that these tasks are easier for the recipients to understand. Also they know when and how to finish them. In his article Doran did not want all the above mentioned factors to be required at all levels of corporate governance. Sometimes it is not quite possible to clearly identify specific objectives, especially from middle management positions.



In practice, a specific well-defined target might be for example "increasing the Premium sales by twenty percent by the end of the next year with the help of discounts and an increase in traders' commissions by two percent." Or "I will keep the current trend of growing sales by fifteen percent annually also in the next two years by extending the business team by three outsourced and two internal employees, for whom the recently promoted manager with field experience will be responsible". Ideally, a positive motivation should be included in each task if it is completed within the deadline.


Even a general assignment can have its pros

To complete a more specific assignment, executives and even the whole businesses can easily lose the benefits of broadly defined tasks. But the combination of the goal and the plan to achieve it is essential. Therefore, the responsible management should focus on these two factors, not just on the achievement of the target itself.

SMART criteria are often associated with the management theory according to the goals of US Professor Peter Drucker. This Viennese native is often referred to as the father of modern management.

SMART theory was widened by Doran's followers by several other factors and letters:

  • SMARTER (+ Evaluated & Reviewed)
    • Open and valuated
  • SMARTTA (+ Trackable & Agreed)
    • Concrete and accepted
  • SMARRT (+ Realistic & Relevance)
    • Down to earth and relevant
  • SMART-VT (+ Verifiable & Traceable)
    • Uses the English pronunciation of the letter Y reminding the word "why", which warns that the correct task should be motivating even for its owner;
  • SMARTS (+ Sustainable)

Other acronyms are also used to correct targets:

  • CLEAR (Collaborative, Limited, Emotional, Appreciable & Refinable)
  • PURE (Positively stated, Understood, Relevant & Ethical)
  • CPQQRT (Context, Purpose, Quantity, Quality, Resources, Timing)

Which method you choose to set your goals depends on you, your plans, as well as your previous experience. Moreover, different criteria may be used for each target. It is crucial that all key players agree on the formulated objectives and consistently follow their fulfillment. Because in the business it is not true that also the way can be a target.